We're entering the final week of the 2021-22 NBA regular season, and there's still a lot left to be decided across the league. As teams jockey for playoff positioning, a few head coaches are also fighting for their jobs. Some coaches' fates may be decided based on how far their teams get in the postseason, while others are simply hoping to make the playoffs -- or play-in tournament -- in order to boost the odds of keeping their jobs.
It's been five months since the last coach was dismissed in the NBA, as the Sacramento Kings parted ways with Luke Walton just 17 games into the season. And while there aren't a ton of obvious choices on who will be next to lose their job, we can still speculate about a few coaches who are under pressure as the regular season nears its end. Here are three coaches who could be next to get the pink slip.
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1. Frank Vogel, Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are currently two games back of the San Antonio Spurs for the final spot in the play-in tournament, but really it's a three-game gap given the Spurs own the season tiebreaker against L.A. This is not the position we expected to find the Lakers in after the team entered the season as a title contender. But with just four games remaining on their schedule there's a real possibility of missing the playoffs entirely, which means Vogel's hot seat is hotter than ever.
Vogel and the Lakers failed to come to a contract extension prior to the start of this season, which already put the thought out there that this was a make-or-break season for the coach. Despite winning a championship in 2020 with the Lakers, it's been clear that L.A. has given Vogel a short leash, and this season certainly hasn't sparked confidence that he should be in charge going forward.
After finishing last season with the top-ranked defense in the league, the Lakers have plummeted to 22nd in 2021-22. Personnel has certainly played a factor in that steep drop off, as the number of versatile defenders on this roster has diminished since that 2020 title run, but the poor defense wouldn't be so jarring if the offense wasn't also a complete mess.
The Lakers' offense is the fifth-worst in the league this season, as it relies far too heavily on the heroics of LeBron James on most nights to drag them to the finish line. Russell Westbrook is having without a doubt the worst season of his career -- and he's received a considerable amount of criticism for it, too -- and Anthony Davis hasn't been healthy enough to make a real impact for L.A. Outside of that Big three, the Lakers don't see enough consistent contributions from their role players outside of Malik Monk, and Vogel has struggled to strike the right balance in his rotations.
You could certainly rebuttal those issues as not entirely being Vogel's fault; he's not the reason Davis is injury prone, or why Westbrook can't hit wide open 3-pointers. But this franchise always has sky-high expectations, and they're not afraid to cut ties if the coach isn't living up to their standard. Vogel should receive his credit for coaching the Lakers to that 2020 championship, but that may not be enough to outweigh the first-round exit last season, and potentially missing the playoffs altogether this year.
2. Alvin Gentry, Sacramento Kings
Gentry was elevated to head coach after Luke Walton was fired just 17 games into the season. However, the Kings never lifted the interim tag on his title, making it seem as though the door was still open for them to bring in another coach in the offseason. Gentry hasn't done a ton to inspire confidence that Sacramento should bring him back, given the Kings have gone just 23-39 this season with him in charge and will miss the playoffs for the 16th straight season.
Some of that isn't Gentry's doing. He's not the one who traded promising guard Tyrese Haliburton at the deadline, a move that shocked everyone around the league. However, the Kings said that deal to trade Haliburton in exchange for All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis was made with the intention of competing for the play-in tournament this season. When Sacramento made that trade it was 11th in the West with three games separating it and the final spot for the play-in tournament. The Kings have since fallen to 12th in the standings and were officially eliminated from the playoffs Sunday night.
Team owner Vivek Ranadive hasn't had an issue dismissing coaches when he feels it's necessary, as the Kings have gone through six different head coaches since he became majority owner of the team in 2013. If the Kings do feel Gentry isn't the right person to lead them next season, then they'll need to make sure that whoever they bring in will be able to have more success than each of the previous coaches. The talent is there for Sacramento to contend for a play-in spot, but it needs to find the right coach that can put the pieces together to put wins on the board.
3. Quin Snyder, Utah Jazz
If Snyder isn't Utah's coach next season I expect it to be a mutual decision by both sides, rather than the Jazz choosing to fire him. This has less to do with Snyder being a good coach, and more to do with a potential need for change in Utah. Snyder's been essential in developing players like Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, and his role in helping to revitalize this franchise's image as a consistent playoff team can't be understated. He has a. 584 win percentage in the regular season with this team, but his postseason success (4-7) with this team is a sticking point.
Under Snyder's stewardship the Jazz have been to the playoffs in five straight seasons, missing it only twice over his seven years there. While that's an impressive mark, the Jazz haven't advanced to the conference finals once during that span. Last season they fell to a Clippers team without Kawhi Leonard in the second round despite Utah being the top-seeded team in the West. Though they entered this season as a squad that could finish atop the West again after bringing back all its key pieces, the Jazz have been a middle-of-the-pack team, and are staring at an uphill battle to get to the conference finals.
If the Jazz lose in the first or second round of the playoffs do they decide to retool around Donovan Mitchell? Does that retooling involve bringing in a new head coach to lead them? Those are some questions on the table for Utah heading into the postseason. A disappointing early exit could be the catalyst that makes the front office decide to switch it up. Whether that change needs to come at the coaching level, roster or both remains to be seen, but if Utah decides to pivot this offseason anything could be on the table.
If Utah does decide to move on from Snyder, there's no doubt he'll receive significant interest from other teams around the league. It's already been reported that the Spurs may target him as a possible successor to Gregg Popovich in San Antonio whenever he decides to retire, and if the Lakers do fire Vogel they'll certainly be in the mix to acquire Snyder.